Samsung Galaxy Note I717 review: Pushing the envelope

GSMArena team, 19 February 2012.
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TouchWiz-ed music player

The Samsung Galaxy Note uses the standard TouchWiz music player, which is pretty good news as we cannot think of a feature that it lacks, save for automatically generated album art.

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The music player is pretty cool

Samsung have enabled equalizer presets (including a custom one) along with the sound-enhancing DNSe technology and 5.1 channel virtualization.

There is a nice music-based visualization with the bars moving on the screen and you can easily share any track you are listening to over mail, Wi-Fi, or any of the social networks you have set up on the device.

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The now playing interface • the equalizer

One of the best video players is at your service

The video player offers a simple list-based interface. It displays all video files stored on the phone and you can sort them by name, date, type or size. The video player also remembers the last viewed position of the video, so you can resume exactly where you left off.

The video player lets you choose between three crop modes for how the video fits the screen. There's 5.1 channel virtualization and subtitle support. You can change font size and adjust subtitles sync (move them back or forward a few seconds) but there's no option to manually load subtitles, they have to have the same filename as the video file to load.

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The Galaxy Note I717 video player

The video player had absolutely no trouble with any of the files we threw at it - starting with .WMV, through .AVI (DivX and XviD) and .MP4 to .MKV (H.264). Resolution wasn't a problem either - the Samsung Galaxy Note played FullHD files with ease. Large files of over 2GB worked as well.

Needless to say, with a screen that big and resolution this high the Galaxy Note makes a great portable video player. You just transfer the videos to it (which is quite easy too) and enjoy.

A good 8MP camera

The Samsung Galaxy Note comes with an 8MP auto-focus camera for photos of up to 3264 x 2448 pixel resolution. It comes with an LED flash and 28mm wide-angle lens but, unfortunately, no shutter key.

That's the same module that you get on the Galaxy S II and as you know that one is still among the best 8 megapixel shooters out there.

The interface is identical, too, with two shortcut bars on each side of the viewfinder. On the right you get the still camera / camcorder switch, virtual shutter key and the gallery shortcut (which is a thumbnail of the last photo taken).

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The still camera interface

On the left you get five controls by default but the good news is that you can pick any shortcuts to put there - commonly used features need to be one tap away.

In terms of features, the Samsung Galaxy Note offers quite a lot - touch focus, scene modes, face/blink/smile detection, effects, geotagging, digital image stabilization and manual controls for ISO, metering mode and so on. The list goes on, but those are the ones that really count.

Image quality is really nice with plenty of resolved detail, great edge-to-edge sharpness, nice contrast and moderately saturated colors. Check out the samples below.

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FullHD video doesn't disappoint either

The video camera interface is identical to the still camera one. You get the same customizable panel on the left for four shortcuts. The front mounted camera can record video too (resolution is limited to VGA).

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The viewfinder in camcorder mode

A peculiar thing to note is that when shooting FullHD videos you have a narrower field of view than that of the still camera. The explanation is that the camcorder uses only the center of the 8MP sensor instead of shooting with the whole surface and then scale it down to 1080p.

In 720p video capture mode however they use the whole sensor and as a result you have almost the same wide field of view as the still camera (about 30mm).

What this means for the occasional videographer is 720p videos might turn out the better option in low light as the process of pixel binning used for downsizing the information captured from the 8 megapixel sensor down to 720p actually helps suppress digital noise too.

The longer focal range in 1080p mode also makes for a shakier video so you might want to look for a hand-rest while recording to get the best out of the Samsung Galaxy S FullHD camcorder.

The camcorder features continuous autofocus, which is smooth, though a bit slow at times. Stereo recording is also appreciated.

Videos are shot in MP4 format. We have prepared a couple of camera samples for you. Don't forget to click 1080p on the Full HD video sample and open the video full screen to really appreciate it.

Here goes an untouched 1080p video clip.

We're really pleased with the video quality. There's an amazing level of resolved detail, the framerate is solid 30fps. The videos turn out nice and crisp.

The video files have a bitrate of 17Mbps; sound is recorded in stereo at 128Kbps and a sampling rate of 44 KHz. There's a price to be paid for the higher bitrate though. A minute of FullHD video would take up around 120MB of storage space so that makes a 10-minute clip well over a gigabyte. Plus, low-spec'd computers will have a hard time playing it. It's still bearable though considering that a 10-minute video by the iPhone 4S takes up something in the lines of 1.8GB.

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